Barbara Andersen | Credit: Courtesy

For obvious reasons, no one wants to get tagged with the title “Homeless Czar” these days, but it appears Santa Barbara City Hall has just given Barbara Andersen a very similar job. For the past two years, Andersen has played a key role with the Santa Barbara Alliance for Community Transformation which has been spearheading collaborative efforts to get homeless people off the streets and into housing. Reflecting the seriousness with which she takes the issue of homelessness, City Administrator Rebecca Bjork just appointed Andersen to fill the vacancy created when former assistant city administrator Nina Johnson departed. (Johnson, a longtime administrator well regarded by arts advocates and downtown business interests — ran for city council last fall and lost to incumbent Meagan Harmon.)

As Bjork’s new Senior Assistant, Andersen’s official title, she brings with her 10 years of experience in Santa Barbara’s world of high-octane philanthropy, most recently with the Santa Barbara Foundation and prior to that with the Orfalea Foundation. With a background in crisis management and emergency response planning, Andersen has demonstrated an ability to communicate complicated issues clearly. In front of the City Council recently, Andersen’s remarks stood out amidst a blizzard of information; the city needed 282 more beds in emergency shelters than it currently has, Andersen stated, to create the necessary flow required for the whole system to function.

Santa Barbara City Council’s Michael Jordan—the councilmember most focused on issues of homelessness — waxed rhapsodic over Andersen’s appointment to a high ranking second-floor position. He expressed confidence that Andersen will help City Hall achieve better working relations with the County of Santa Barbara. While the county has most of the money, the city has most of the homeless people, a fact from which some friction has flowed.

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